Measuring Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientation in National Disease Surveillance Systems: A Pilot Study

J Sex Res. 2020 Oct;57(8):987-996. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2020.1745740. Epub 2020 Apr 6.

Abstract

The study sought to determine participants' preferred methods for self-reporting biological sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation in national surveillance studies. An online, cross-sectional survey was conducted with n = 255 adults, 18 years old or older and currently living in the US. After completing a series of questions and question sets related to biological sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, participants were asked which question or question set they preferred to use to identify their identifying characteristic. Two "no preference options," one stating that all the questions were good and another stating that all the questions were bad, were included as response options. A majority (53.8%) preferred "What sex were you at birth?" to identify their biological sex. A plurality (42.3%) preferred "Are you male, female, or transgender?" to identify their gender identify. For sexual orientation, there were no clear question preferences. Biological sex question preference significantly differed by age (p = .001) and political affiliation (p = .01). Gender identity question preference significantly differed by marital status (p = .006) and political affiliation (p = .005). The results suggest there may be disagreement in question preference in self-reporting biological sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation in surveillance systems. More research is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Transgender Persons*